Choose your own exhibit at WCMA’s Rose Study Gallery

Moving through the rooms of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) could be the richest, classiest and perhaps even the most colorful stroll on campus. From Tuesday until Sunday, museum-goers can feast their eyes upon the varied menu of artifacts that can be found in each chamber. However, during the school week, there is no room with the potential to be as compelling or satisfying as the Rose Study Gallery.

“The primary objective [of the WCMA] is as a teaching museum,” said Suzanne Silitch, director of public relations and external affairs. “The Rose Study Gallery makes it possible for faculty from any department to teach with art.”

A plain boardroom with chairs and lights? Not quite. Located off the atrium of the WCMA, the Rose Study Gallery is the classroom that the museum opens to interested parties as an avenue to showcase any part of its stored collection. The Gallery can be reserved by appointment with Liz Gallerani, the Mellon Foundation Academic Programs assistant who oversees both the bookings of the Rose Study Gallery and the setup of requested pieces.

“From photographs to prints to coins or sculpture, the collection can be very eclectic. We have about 13,000 pieces, and only so many can be on view in the galleries,” Gallerani said. “Less than 4 percent is out at any given time.”

While scheduling an appointment, Gallerani helps individuals browse the WCMA database and assemble a list of pieces. She also offers tips on instructing with the aid of art to teachers, especially those who have not worked with art before. Additionally, Gallerani will sit in on sessions to answer any questions about the pieces.

“The Rose Study Gallery allows us to access works of art in storage for students,” Gallerani said. “We want to make the museum’s collection as accessible as possible.”

Since the 2004 conversion of the Rose Gallery to the Rose Study Gallery, classes both from the College and from surrounding schools have increasingly utilized the Rose Study Gallery. According to Gallerani, in 2007, 27 Williams classes and 51 classes overall held sessions in the Rose Study Gallery, up from 29 total classes in its first year. Students come from area schools such as Bennington, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the College of Saint Rose. Between 2500 and 3000 individuals per year have studied in the classroom, Gallerani said.

Besides art history and studio art classes, music and theater classes were also held in the Gallery in 2007. From farther off the beaten track, classes of several levels of chemistry, economics, physics and geosciences, among others, met in the Gallery. “Last week we had art history, studio art, economics, neuroscience and comparative literature classes in the Rose Study Gallery,” Gallerani said.

A range of work has been put on display in the gallery. It recently featured 18th century etchings of Rome by the Venetian artist Piranesi for a class on ancient Rome, as well as two Roman coins from the time of two different emperors. A class on economics in the context of American history recently examined photographs by Dorothea Lange and Marion Post Wolcott for the effects of the Depression on the population.

The Rose Study Gallery is made possible by the Mellon Program, which began in the 1990s with two grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. After six years of support, an endowment came to the WCMA, and the fund supports the Rose Study Gallery and the other initiatives, including the McNicol Gallery and Labeltalk, Gallerani said.